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Why Choosing Clear Aligner Treatment With Orthodontist Oversight Is Better than DIY Teeth Straightening

By Blog, Orthodontics

It’s safe to say that teeth straightening should be facilitated by an orthodontist. After all, a certified specialist in orthodontics has professional knowledge of dental anatomy and years of experience in orthodontic procedures. Orthodontists straighten teeth safely, with results that fulfill a patient’s unique aesthetic and functional goals.

Unfortunately, recent years have seen an uptick in DIY clear aligner treatment: people trying to straighten their smile with online services and products. These offer minimal to no supervision by an orthodontic or dental professional and Dr. Anand Patel and The Brace Place team caution against going it alone.

At face value, DIY clear aligners seem like a win-win for convenience and price, but the trade-off is risky. At-home clear aligners put all or most of the orthodontic decision-making on the patient: diagnosing their own case, taking their own impressions, and supervising their own progress. This can lead to permanent damage to teeth or issues that need extractions or surgery to correct. 

DIY teeth straightening also poses potential problems such as inaccurate impressions, trays that don’t fit, and root resorption from teeth moved too aggressively. The latter results in shorter tooth roots and less secure teeth.

Peace-of-Mind with Orthodontist Oversight

In contrast, oversight from a specialist in orthodontics ensures everything is precise, safe, and goes right every step of the way. At The Brace Place, Invisalign® treatment starts with high-tech digital teeth scans with an iTero® scanner — no goopy impression molds to mess up. And patients receive custom treatment planning that addresses both the look and function of their teeth. During treatment, oversight by an orthodontic specialist also allows for treatment adjustments in response to how teeth are moving in real time. The result? The best outcomes possible.

Confidence also comes from an orthodontist’s credentials. Tulsa and Claremore orthodontist, Dr. Patel, brings the following to every clear aligner case:

  • 25 years of orthodontic experience
  • status as an Invisalign Gold Provider Plus
  • American board certified designation
  • personalized service and custom treatment planning.

As for convenience? Clear aligner treatment with an orthodontist is easy with minimal interruption to daily life — only a few check-ins to ensure teeth are on-track. Time well spent for the assurance that teeth are responding well to clear aligner treatment.

About The Brace Place

The team at The Brace Place believes everyone deserves a stunning smile. For more than two decades, Dr. Anand Patel has transformed smiles from crooked to confident. As a Tulsa and Claremore, OK, orthodontic specialist, he pairs the latest orthodontic technology and treatments with fun, friendly service. Patients enjoy a safe, precise orthodontic experience with braces or Invisalign® — with flexible payment plans, transparent communication, and excellent results.

To get started with clear aligners at your Tulsa and Claremore orthodontist, book a first appointment today.

8 Fun Facts About Smiling

8 Fun Facts About Smiling

By Blog, Orthodontics

A genuine smile is a universal sign of connection and goodwill. But did you know there’s more to smiling than just that? 

Since we’re all about smiles at The Brace Place, we want to share a few fun facts about this powerful expression. And maybe the next time you smile or someone smiles at you, one of these eight fun smile facts might pop into your head… and make you smile even bigger!


  1. A smile can boost your mood 

Does smiling make you happy? Simply put, yes. Even when you don’t feel like smiling, simulating a genuine smile can lift your mood. Several studies show that smiling kickstarts a chemical reaction in your brain, releasing feel-good hormones like dopamine and serotonin. These hormones help reduce depression and aggression. 


  1. Smiling can reduce stress 

We all experience stress at one time or another. But taking a moment to pause and smile can bring you some relief. Physical benefits of smiling — like lowering your heart rate and cortisol levels — can better your mood, improving your health and immune system.

In one study, participants were given stress-inducing activities while holding chopsticks in their mouths to maintain a neutral expression, a standard smile, or a Duchenne smile (a smile that extends to the muscles around your eyes). The outcome? The types of smiles didn’t matter too much but it’s clear that smiling wins: those who had smiling expressions had lower heart rates and recovered more quickly from their stress than those with neutral faces. 


  1. Smiling can contribute to a longer life

The importance of your smile is not only about brightening the moment but can have long-term effects, too. Another study on the benefits of smiling and types of smiles catalogued player smiles on MLB baseball cards from 1952 and compared how long they lived. From no smile to a partial smile to a Duchenne smile, the bigger the smile, the longer the life. On average, those who didn’t smile lived 72.9 years, those with a partial smile lived 75 years, and players with a Duchenne smile lived 79.9 years.


  1. A smile can make you seem more intelligent

Job interview or first date, the benefits of smiling are many — including giving off the impression you’re a smart cookie! Case in point: researchers showed participants pictures of faces, asking to rate them for intelligence. Smiling faces were ranked as having “high intelligence” more often than non-smiling faces. And what contributes to an attractive smile? Straight, healthy teeth — often achieved with braces or Invisalign.


  1. Smiling is contagious

Adding to our fun facts about smiling: that it’s contagious. When you smile at someone, their brain responds with “sensorimotor simulation,” fancy-speak for mimicking an expression involuntarily. In fact, a study from Sweden showed that subjects had difficulty frowning when looking at a smiling face, their facial muscles fighting an automatic smile response.

So why do our brains do that? Responding with a smile is our brain’s way of showing empathy. And since smiling has a positive effect (as we’ve mentioned in smile fun facts #1 and #2) there are really no downsides to responding to a smile with a smile. 

  1. Smiles come in 19 different types 

We smile for all sorts of reasons, with a variety of different smiles. A UC-San Francisco researcher identified 19 types of smiles, putting them into two categories: the polite smile which engages fewer facial muscles, and the sincere smile that uses more muscles. And psychologist, Paul Ekman, identified individual types of smiles, like the felt smile, fear smile, miserable smile, and flirtatious smile. 

  1. Smiling is a baby’s first facial expression

One of the cutest facts about smiling? We’re hardwired to smile, right from the womb. In fact, 4D scanning has shown that some babies actually smile in utero. Once they’re born, babies reflexively smile in their sleep, then start smiling in response to people around them between six to 12 weeks old. 

  1. A smile is the most recognizable facial expression 

People can recognize a smile from up to 300 feet away, making it the most easily recognizable facial expression. And since smiling is a universal sign of happiness, it’s an easy way to communicate across cultures — more than handshakes, hugs, or bows which can have different meanings for different traditions. 

Smile bigger with the Brace Place

Dr. Patel and The Brace Place team hope these fun facts about smiling have made you grin! And now that you know more about the importance of your smile, contact your Tulsa and Claremore orthodontist today for a free consultation to improve yours!

High angle shot of an adorable baby sucking their fingers while laying on a blanket.

Thumb Sucking, Pacifiers and Teeth: A Fact-Based Guide

By Orthodontics

As a parent, you receive a constant flood of information when it comes to raising kids. Everything from sleep to screen time, nutrition to emotional well-being, academics to activities — there’s a lot out there. Understandably, it’s hard to separate fact from fiction sometimes or decide what to do for your child and your family.


If you have babies or toddlers, one thing you might be wondering about is what to do about thumb sucking or pacifiers. You might’ve heard or read things like, “Thumb sucking is bad for teeth!” or “Pacifiers cause teeth damage!” Conversely, you might also have heard that thumb sucking and pacifier use is natural, and should be left to run their course. Which is right? And what should you do? 


Dr. Patel and the team at The Brace Place are here to ease the confusion. We’ve put together a fact-based guide to thumb sucking and pacifiers — from an orthodontist who’s treated thousands of kids. We’ll answer questions like “Are pacifiers bad for teeth?” and “What does thumb sucking do to teeth?” 



Thumb sucking and pacifiers for babies: it’s ok!


Let’s start with infancy and thumb sucking. Simply put, thumb sucking for babies is perfectly natural and a common part of the developmental process. In fact, a Johns Hopkins Medicine article says about 90% of newborns show some kind of hand sucking a mere two hours after birth. 


Sucking habits — hands, fingers, or thumbs — help babies self-soothe. And putting things in their mouths is a way babies learn about and experience the world around them. So you can breathe a sigh of relief if your baby sucks their thumb and there’s no need to discourage it during infancy.


And pacifiers? When it comes to pacifier use, one study by the American Academy of Family Physicians found that about 75-85% of babies in Western countries use a pacifier sometime during infancy. It can be an extension of their natural sucking reflex. And research has shown that pacifier use when a baby sleeps reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). So it’s ok to offer a pacifier if your baby accepts one.



Orthodontic pacifiers


Consider giving your baby an orthodontic pacifier during their early months instead of a traditional one. What’s the difference? An orthodontic pacifier’s nipple has a flat end, while a traditional pacifier has a rounded nipple. The flat shape is meant to mimic nursing and encourage a more natural tongue movement. A 2018 systematic review of studies found that orthodontic pacifiers reduced the risk of an open bite in comparison with rounded pacifiers (though the authors stated a more well-designed, randomized, and controlled trial was needed). 



At what age are pacifiers bad for teeth? And thumb sucking? 


Up until around age one, thumb sucking and pacifier use typically won’t have any negative effects on your baby’s tiny teeth or jaw. And since sucking is a natural and useful part of infancy, it’s ok to let your baby suck their thumb or pacifier in that early stage.


But when are pacifiers bad for teeth? And when should you discourage thumb sucking? Well, prolonged thumb sucking or pacifier use is shown to increase the likelihood of affecting teeth and jaw growth if continued into later toddlerhood or elementary school. You might have to step in to help your child stop sucking their thumb at that point. Or decide how and when to take their pacifier away. 


Kids who still have a persistent habit of sucking their thumb or using their pacifier by kindergarten are more likely to develop orthodontic issues like crooked teeth or a bad bite. A meta-analysis in the International Journal of Orthodontics concluded that pacifier use after age three causes high incidences of an anterior open bite, posterior crossbite, a narrow upper arch, and a high, narrow palate. These issues become even more serious in kids who still use a pacifier after age five.


In addition, several studies — like the one published in the Journal of the American Dental Association — found that the most significant issues occurred in children who continued their thumb or pacifier sucking habit beyond age four. 


The good news? Most kids stop thumb sucking on their own between ages two and four. And the same thing goes for pacifiers — many grow out of it and chances are you won’t need to decide when to take their pacifier away. 


Now, we should mention that the occasional thumb sucking shouldn’t affect your little one’s teeth. Some toddlers still pop their thumb in their mouth without sucking in times of stress or to help soothe themselves as they doze off. This is called passive thumb sucking and is considered fairly normal. How can you tell what’s passive thumb sucking and what’s not?  Look for more aggressive jaw movements when their thumb is in their mouth or listen for popping noises when they take their thumb out. 



What can you do to stop thumb sucking and pacifier use?


Is your child around two or three years old and still has a strong thumb sucking or pacifier habit? The American Academy of Pediatrics Dentistry says you should step in after age three. However, the American Dental Association recommends giving a bit more time and discouraging these habits if they continue past age four.


So based on the research, we suggest gently getting your little one to give up, or least decrease their thumb or pacifier sucking around age two or three to be safe. If you can’t get your child to stop thumb sucking or using their pacifier by age four, we recommend coming in to see your pediatric dentist or us at The Brace Place


Whether you decide on a “cold turkey” style or a more gradual approach, here are six quick tips for helping your child stop thumb sucking or using their pacifier:


1.Empower your child to start on their own. Talk to your child calmly and gently about their habit and why they need to start trying to stop. The name of the game is empowerment (not shame or criticism): let them know you can help when they’re ready. Sometimes even bringing it up is all you need to get the ball rolling.


2. Use positive reinforcement. Praise your child whenever you notice they haven’t sucked their thumb or pacifier when they normally would.


3. Reward them. Use a sticker chart, prizes, or other external motivations you know they respond to.


4. Allow them to talk about their feelings. As we mentioned earlier, stress or anxiety can cause a child to suck their thumb or use a pacifier. If you see this is the case, take time to find out what they’re feeling and decide on what to do instead. Maybe your child needs a cuddle, a walk or some fresh air, and a chance to talk about what’s bothering them.


5. Distract them or change their activity. Sometimes it’s simply that your little one is bored, fidgety, or just having a hard day and is cranky. Offer a new activity like coloring, a new game, puzzles, fidget toys, or playing outside for a change of scenery.


6. Put in a habit-breaking appliance. If your at-home efforts just aren’t working, you can come into The Brace Place and find out if a special appliance will work for your child. A habit-breaking appliance blocks your child’s thumb from coming in contact with the back of the upper teeth, helping stop thumb sucking by making it less enjoyable. Rest assured, it’s not painful and is effective when all else fails!


Remember that some techniques work for one child but not another. And it can change from one day to the next. Or hour by hour! Consider what works for you and your little one. In the end, what you can prevent at an early age will help determine your child’s need for braces or Invisalign later on.



What happens to teeth after prolonged thumb sucking or pacifier use?


It’s no surprise that Dr. Patel has seen and treated many orthodontic issues from thumb sucking and pacifier habits that have gone on too long. After all, he’s been an orthodontist for more than 20 years! 


What are the most common orthodontic issues that happen to teeth from extended thumb sucking and pacifiers? Here we list the top three Dr. Patel has seen in his many years of orthodontic experience:


  • Protruding front teeth – Sucking on a thumb or pacifier puts pressure behind the front teeth, making them tilt or stick out. Also known as ‘’buck teeth,” these protruding front teeth are more susceptible to injury, can cause speech problems, or make it hard to close the lips or mouth comfortably.


  • Crossbite – A crossbite is when some of the top teeth sit inside of the bottom teeth when teeth are closed together. You can have an anterior cross bite (front teeth) or a posterior crossbite (back teeth). Typically, crossbite teeth from thumb sucking or a pacifier is a posterior crossbite: the sucking action causes a narrow upper arch (which Dr. Patel might suggest opening up later on with an orthodontic expander).


Crossbites can lead to jaw pain and uneven enamel wear because the teeth don’t stack together well. And sometimes a child with a crossbite tries to compensate by shifting the jaw to one side, further causing mismatched jaw growth.


  • Open bite – What is an open bite? Have your child close their teeth together, like when they say “cheeeese!” for a photo. If your child’s top teeth don’t overlap their bottom teeth (in an overbite or normal bite) or their lower and upper arches don’t touch at all, this is considered an open bite. An open bite can contribute to speech problems, or swallowing and chewing issues that make eating a difficult task.


Baby with a pacifier in their mouth and wearing a Santa hat on their head


Helping your child stop thumb sucking and pacifier use in Tulsa and Claremore, OK


Have questions about your child’s thumb sucking or pacifier use? Or concerned about the effects on their teeth? The team at The Brace Place is happy to help. 

Contact us to book a free initial consultation at our Tulsa or Claremore, OK office.

A Christmas present on a red background and surrounded by other holiday decorations

5 Holiday Gift Ideas for the Braces or Invisalign Wearer In Your Life

By Orthodontics

It’s holiday gift-giving time again. And if you have a new braces-wearer or Invisalign user on your list, you might be wondering about orthodontics-friendly holiday gift ideas. The team at The Brace Place is here to help. With 20+ years of experience as an orthodontic specialist, Dr. Anand Patel is super familiar with orthodontic products that help patients in caring for their braces or Invisalign.


Here are 5 best orthodontic products that we think make great holiday gifts.



1. A Braces Survival Kit

Getting braces is typically a bit of a life adjustment. A take-anywhere braces survival kit can help your new braces-wearer feel more comfortable and prepared when caring for their braces and teeth. We suggest finding a special pouch, small bag, or carrying case that fits their personality to hold all their to-go essentials. One they’ll feel confident pulling out when hanging out with friends, at school, or during activities.


What kinds of orthodontic products should you include? Well, caring for braces (and teeth!) often means keeping them clean throughout the day and alleviating discomfort. So first, consider items that help with on-the-go, easy flossing and brushing with braces: your braces-wearer will need tools for quickly and discreetly removing food debris and sugars after eating.


Next, think about orthodontic products that soothe braces soreness. This can sometimes happen after braces get adjusted or tightened. 


The best products for a braces survival kit include:


  • A compact mirror
  • Floss picks
  • Travel toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste 
  • Mouthwash
  • Lip balm
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers
  • Orthodontic wax to create a barrier between braces and the inside of lips or cheeks


And how about Invisalign supplies? The items above work great for Invisalign wearers, too. Just swap out the orthodontic wax for Invisalign-specific products — like a case to hold their clear aligner trays (when they’re taken out during eating or drinking anything other than water), or Movemint clear aligner mints. Movemints are a breath-freshening alternative to clear aligner chewies.


What are “chewies?” Chewies are one of the many Invisalign products that make Invisalign wearing even easier. You bite on them to push aligner trays back into their correct positions after you’ve taken them out.



2. Electric Toothbrush

Does an electric toothbrush really clean better than a manual one study has shown that brushing — with braces or not — can be more effective with an electric toothbrush than with a manual one. Over this 11-year study, electric toothbrush participants showed 18% less tooth decay than those using a manual toothbrush. 


In the study, electric toothbrushes were more effective at removing food particles from teeth. In turn, that makes them better at preventing tooth decay and gum disease in the long run. They also have built-in tech, like timers and modes to ensure you’re brushing your best — with braces or without. 


And if you’re wondering how to clean your Invisalign trays? Use your electric toothbrush to give them a gentle brush before popping the trays back in your mouth. 


How To Choose An Electric Toothbrush For Brushing With Braces

Choose one with a rotating and oscillating head, sometimes called a sonic toothbrush. Some are designed specifically for brushing with braces by dental and orthodontic supplies brands Phllips Sonicare and Oral-B. If you’re not sure which one to choose, feel free to ask us. We’re here to help our patients figure out the best orthodontic products that work for them.



3. Water Flosser

We know flossing with braces can be a little tricky at first. One of the most helpful orthodontic products, a water flosser is easier to maneuver than dental floss and can get an even cleaner clean. According to one study, using a water flosser can reduce plaque by 75% versus cleaning with dental floss. 


Now, with all your holiday spending, it’s nice to know that water flossers come in a variety of models to suit different budgets and needs. And if you have children, Waterpick® has kid-friendly ones that make flossing — with braces or without — a fun activity. Kid water flossers are scaled smaller, brightly colored, and even come with fun stickers. They also typically come with a lower pressure range to accommodate more sensitive gums.


Want to really encourage flossing? Make flossing with braces more fun with orthodontic products like Superfloss and Cocofloss.



4. Ice Cream, Gelato or Frozen Yogurt Gift Card

As mentioned earlier, sometimes having braces can cause some oral discomfort. Especially after tightening or adjustments. And although Invisalign treatment doesn’t require adjustments, it comes with its own uncomfortable phases, typically when switching from one set of trays to the next.


Soothe your loved one’s oral pain with a cold treat gift. Gift cards are popular holiday gift ideas and for those going through orthodontic treatment, a gift card for a favorite ice cream, gelato or frozen yogurt place can make oral discomfort a little more sweet. 


We give a thumbs up to ice cream, gelato or frozen yogurt because they’re soft foods that won’t damage braces. But it goes without saying that they still have sugar, so braces-wearers should rinse with water or brush their teeth afterwards to minimize sugar bugs. And enjoy in moderation, of course!


Want to ensure you’re balancing sweet treats with healthy foods? Dr. Patel and the team at The Brace Place suggest teeth-happy snacks for braces like fruits, veggies and homemade energy bites.


5. Refillable Water Bottle

Last but not least, a reusable water bottle is one of those holiday gift ideas that promotes health all-around. There’s no downside to encouraging your loved one to hydrate while caring for their braces and teeth with a sugar-free drink. For Invisalign wearers, the great thing about a refillable water bottle is that they don’t have to take out their clear aligners to quench their thirst.



The Gift of Orthodontic Care For the Holidays

Well, that wraps up our top 5 holiday gift ideas for the braces- or Invisalign-wearer on your list! But if your loved one needs orthodontic treatment and hasn’t started yet, we think the holidays are a great time to start. 

Contact your Tulsa and Claremore, OK orthodontist today for a free initial consultation.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea in Kids

What Parents Should Know About Obstructive Sleep Apnea in Kids

By Orthodontics

Everyone needs sleep, and good quality sleep at that. Kids especially need good sleep for developing healthy brains and bodies. Of course, sometimes kids don’t get the sleep they need — the occasional late-night sleepover, or staying up in anticipation of Christmas morning or a birthday. But if your child’s daily sleep is affected by a medical issue like sleep apnea, the lack of restorative sleep night after night can affect their health.


“Can kids really have sleep apnea?” You ask. You might be surprised to know that a type of sleep apnea called “obstructive sleep apnea” can happen with kids. And because orthodontics can play a part in alleviating sleep apnea, we at The Brace Place want to help parents understand it better.


In this post, we want to share all you need to know about child sleep apnea. We’ll answer:


  • What is obstructive sleep apnea in kids?
  • What causes obstructive sleep apnea?
  • What are the signs of child sleep apnea in kids? 
  • Are there complications to sleep apnea in children?
  • How is obstructive sleep apnea treated in kids?
  • Can early intervention orthodontics help kids breathe better?


What is obstructive sleep apnea in kids?


Obstructive sleep apnea in kids, or OSA, is most common in children ages 2-6 but can occur at any age. In this type of sleep-disordered breathing, there’s a physical blockage in the upper airway, causing pauses in breathing. That’s why it’s called “obstructive” sleep apnea, not to be confused with another sleep disorder — central sleep apnea. The latter isn’t as common in kids and, instead of a physical obstruction interrupting breathing, the brain doesn’t send the right signals to the breathing system to regulate it.


According to Yale medicine, child sleep apnea happens in about 2-3% of young children. Now, what’s actually happening when your child is suffering from obstructive sleep apnea? For sleep apnea in kids, muscles in their neck relax when they fall asleep, causing the tissues in their airway to fold closer together. This fully or partially blocks the flow of air through the nose and mouth, down the windpipe, and into the lungs, resulting in temporary pauses in breathing. These short pauses typically last between 10-20 seconds each, happening from five to 30 times an hour.


Your child starts breathing again when the brain realizes they’re not breathing, causing your child’s body to react: their head and neck muscles activate and the airway opens, allowing your child to inhale and continue breathing normally until the muscles and tissue relax again. Oftentimes the first inhalation sounds like a loud snort or choking sound. 



What causes obstructive sleep apnea?


For many kids with obstructive sleep apnea, enlarged tonsils or adenoids contribute to their airway problems. The tonsils and adenoids — located at the back and sides of the throat — take up a lot of space in your little one’s airway. Once the surrounding tissues relax, the tonsils and adenoids take up even more space, resulting in obstructive sleep apnea.


Enlarged tonsils or adenoids might sound serious but they’re actually relatively common in young children and they can grow out of it. And regardless of whether or not your child’s tonsils or adenoids are disproportionately large, these tissues are susceptible to inflammation from allergies or sickness. 


Another contributor to child sleep apnea has to do with the alignment of your child’s jaws and teeth. As an orthodontist for over 20 years, Dr. Patel has seen how obstructive sleep apnea in kids and oral misalignment are related. A narrow mouth or a deep overbite can mean a greater chance of restricted airflow once your child goes to sleep. Conversely, sleep apnea and chronic mouth breathing can change the shape of the jaw.



What are the signs of sleep apnea in kids? 

Signs of sleep apnea in kids


Now, we hinted earlier at a few signs of child sleep apnea: choking or snorting sounds during sleep. Other signs of sleep apnea in kids are just as obvious. The most common? You might notice your child snoring, even when they’re not congested. 


Signs of sleep apnea in kids when they’re sleeping: 

  • Heavy breathing
  • Restless sleep with lots of tossing and turning
  • Mouth breathing
  • Teeth grinding or clenching
  • Wetting the bed
  • Sleepwalking or night terrors

Obstructive sleep apnea can also affect your child’s waking hours. Symptoms of sleep apnea in kids during the day include:

  • Sleepiness in the daytime
  • Behavioral issues, including ADHD-like symptoms
  • Frequent infections — chronic problems with tonsils, adenoids or ear infections



Are there complications to sleep apnea in children?


Child sleep apnea can negatively affect your child’s quality of life. in addition to the above symptoms, a child with sleep-disordered breathing might find themselves with:


  • Craniofacial development issues like deficient growth in their upper jaw and face or asymmetry in facial appearance
  • Forward head posture that leads to problems with spine and body alignment
  • Headaches and fatigue
  • Neck and shoulder tension
  • Teeth grinding or clenching
  • Weight abnormalities
  • Academic, behavioral, developmental and social difficulties
  • Falling or staying asleep, sleepwalking, or restless legs syndrome


Sometimes sleep apnea in toddlers and children can mean your child is receiving less oxygen in their blood than is typical. A child with chronic, untreated sleep apnea can suffer permanent damage to their heart and lungs. And some medical theories say that a breathing disorder like sleep apnea can contribute to ADHD in children.



How is obstructive sleep apnea treated in kids?


Dr. Patel and the team at The Brace Place understand how distressing child sleep apnea can be for both your child and you, so here’s some good news: obstructive sleep apnea can be treated!


We first suggest taking your child to your family doctor or pediatrician for an examination. Before you go, prepare a list of sleep apnea symptoms you’ve noticed in your child, plus any questions you or your little one has. Try recording the sounds of your child sleeping a few nights in a row or take videos of them sleeping so your doctor has a record of pauses in their breathing, sharp intakes of air, snoring, or restless sleeping.


Your doctor will ask about your child’s symptoms, health history, and sleep patterns and perform a physical exam. Sometimes your doctor will suggest a sleep study for sleep apnea as the best way to confirm your child’s airway problems and officially document their sleep patterns.



Types of Treatment for Child Sleep Apnea


Treatment for sleep apnea in children is different from child to child and depends on your little one’s age, symptoms, general health, and severity of their condition. Here are the most common airway treatments your healthcare providers might recommend:


Surgery: If the cause of your child’s sleep apnea is primarily enlarged tonsils or adenoids, you can get them removed with surgery. Missing them doesn’t affect your child’s day-to-day life — except that they’ll breathe and sleep better! An ear, nose and throat specialist will evaluate your child and recommend the best course of action.


A CPAP machine: Some kids with sleep apnea breathe easier with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). This involves wearing a special mask when sleeping that delivers a steady stream of air to keep the airway open. Understandably, some children have trouble getting used to wearing a CPAP mask. But when they finally figure out how to sleep comfortably without it falling off, the change in their sleep quality and breathing is life-changing.


Inhaled steroid medication: You might think of bodybuilders when you hear the word “steroids.” But rest assured, the steroids we mention here for sleep apnea won’t turn your child into The Hulk. For kids with mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea, steroids you breathe in with an inhaler can help calm inflamed tonsils that obstruct breathing.


A clean-air environment: Clean air can go a long way in helping your child breathe easier. Air with secondhand smoke, indoor pollutants, and allergens can irritate and inflame, especially when they’re sleeping. HEPA air filters in your home and your child’s bedroom are considered helpful for filtering indoor air. Good indoor air quality also improves nasal congestion, a common sidekick for kids with obstructive sleep apnea.


Weight loss: When weight is the main reason for your child’s sleep apnea, your doctor might suggest a nutritional plan and weight loss strategy to alleviate your child’s breathing problems. Of course, this takes a lot of time, commitment and patience for both you and your child, but the reward of breathing and sleeping better is well worth the effort! Not to mention the long-term health benefits of a healthier weight and lifestyle.



Can phase 1 orthodontics help kids breathe better?

Orthodontist for Obstructive Sleep Apnea


Once you’ve seen the doctor and have received a sleep apnea diagnosis, your Tulsa and Claremore, OK orthodontist is a resource for alleviating your child’s sleep apnea, too. As an orthodontic specialist, Dr. Patel is an expert in understanding and assessing your child’s oral and facial structures and prescribe early orthodontic treatment — also called phase 1 orthodontics — which can help with sleep apnea. Phase 1 orthodontics includes treatment like a palatal expander, which widens a narrow upper jaw and opens up the airway.


As we mentioned earlier, your child’s jaw alignment can both impact and contribute to obstructive sleep apnea. A narrow arch or a severe overbite can narrow the airway. Or the opposite, your child might develop jaw misalignment because of airway problems like mouth breathing or sleep apnea. 


So what is a palatal or orthodontic expander? A palatal expander for kids is an orthodontic appliance placed against the palate (the roof of the mouth) that incrementally pushes the upper jaw apart. Understandably, this might sound a bit scary but for kids, a palatal expander is pretty straightforward and painless. 


When you’re a kid, the upper jawbone is made up of two separate halves (left and right) that don’t fuse together until your mid-teen years. Turning a tiny screw on an orthodontic expander gradually widens the jaw, opening up the arch. A wider arch that also allows the top and bottom teeth to stack together properly can help open up your child’s airway and alleviate airway problems like sleep apnea or snoring.



Overcoming obstructive sleep apnea with The Brace Place


The family-friendly team at The Brace Place is here to help remedy your child’s sleep apnea with expert phase 1 orthodontic solutions. 

Contact us today for a free initial consultation at our Tulsa or Claremore, OK office to see how we can help your child breathe better!

Send Your Child Back to School With a Healthy Smile

Send Your Child Back to School With a Healthy Smile

By Uncategorized

Back-to-school is just around the corner. And with the lazy, hazy days of summer drawing to a close, now’s the time that many families start prepping for the busy school year ahead. One item to include on your to-do list? Setting up your child for another year of healthy teeth and gums.


But how do you do that? Here, Dr. Patel and the team at The Brace Place have 5 ways you can set your kids up for healthy teeth this year.


1. Schedule Check Ups and Cleanings With Your Dentist


To start the school season with healthy teeth, schedule your kids’ twice-annual dental check-ups and cleanings to coincide with the school year schedule. The first one can happen before the fall so it doesn’t interfere with school hours or after-school activities. And if your check-ups reveal less-than-healthy teeth because of cavities or gum disease, you can get them fixed before school begins. Or least before your child’s schedule starts in full swing.


At a check-up, your dentist has the chance to see if your kids have healthy smiles and suggest both at-home and professional cavity prevention. Some suggested treatments might include:


  • Fluoride to strengthen teeth
  • Dental sealants to create a barrier against tooth decay
  • A mouthguard for sports to prevent dental trauma


A check-up is also an opportunity for your dentist to provide a refresher on brushing kids’ teeth. A mini-lesson is especially helpful for younger kids who are transitioning from their adult brushing and flossing their teeth to managing it on their own. A dentist can also check in on your child’s oral development and, if needed, suggest orthodontics that will improve your kid’s smile.


2. Kick-Start a Daily Solid Oral Hygiene Routine For Healthy Teeth 


As mentioned, your dentist is a great resource for learning how to brush and floss for healthy teeth at home. Put their professional advice into practice by establishing a good oral care routine with your kids that can continue once school starts. Kids (and adults!) should brush twice a day — in the morning and before bed — and floss daily. 


Now, we know that brushing kids’ teeth well day in and day out sometimes requires a little incentive. Here are a few tips for getting your kids excited about maintaining healthy teeth every day:


  • Let them choose their own toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss – Kids are more interested in maintaining a healthy smile when they get to choose tools they like. Just be sure they opt for a soft toothbrush and toothpaste with fluoride.As for flossing, younger kids might like the ease of floss picks, while older kids are typically able to hold floss with their fingers. And did you know dental floss comes in plenty of kid-friendly flavors? There are also kids’ water flossers that make flossing fun and easy.


  • Talk about why healthy teeth and gums matter – It’s not uncommon for kids to ask their parents why teeth brushing is so important. Explain to your kids that a healthy smile equals teeth that look and function at their best. For example, cavities and gum disease can be painful, cause tooth sensitivity to hot and cold, or make eating difficult.



3. Plan A Menu of Teeth-Healthy Lunches and Snacks


It goes without saying that healthy eating contributes to healthy teeth and gums. While you and your kids have time in the summer, come up with teeth-healthy lunch and snack ideas together that you’re all excited about. 


Foods good for teeth include colorful fruits and vegetables like carrots, tomatoes and berries. These have vitamins A and C that help strengthen gums. Crunching on hard veg like cucumbers, celery and broccoli helps manually scrub teeth of sticky sugars.


Cheese and yogurt have bone-strengthening calcium and vitamin D. And studies have shown that cheese is great for cavity prevention… and sometimes helps keeps teeth white! How? Cheddar, mozzarella, or gouda help clear out mouth sugars and bacteria that can cause stains and tooth decay. 


Want more food ideas that support healthy teeth and gums? This earlier post has healthy snack ideas for kids with braces but applies to kids without them, too!



4. Include a Water Bottle For All-Day Hydration


If your child’s school doesn’t already suggest it, send your child to school with a full water bottle so they have access to hydration all day — they can usually refill it at school. Supply water instead of sugary juice boxes, which can contribute to plaque and tooth decay. Being well hydrated also helps keep your child’s mouth moist. Saliva helps wash away food debris and is an important part of keeping a pH environment that discourages bacteria.



5. See a Kids Orthodontist 


Whether your dentist recommends an orthodontic visit for your kids or not, it’s a good idea to take your child to their first orthodontic visit early. Orthodontics for kids can go a long way in helping maintain healthy teeth and gums for life: straight teeth and a normal bite help with the cavity and tooth decay prevention they deserve. 


But at what age should kids see an orthodontist? Well, the American Association of Orthodontists suggests that kids see an orthodontist by age seven. By this time, a few adult teeth have already grown in and their jaw shape is pretty much established. A highly trained orthodontic specialist like Dr. Patel can spot potential issues like misaligned teeth or a bad bite that might benefit from early orthodontic treatment or monitoring.


A Healthy Smile with The Brace Place


A Healthy Smile with The Brace Place

Excited to start the school year with a teeth-happy plan? Include a visit to your Claremore and Tulsa, OK orthodontist to give your kids a head start on their oral health this year.

Contact us today for a free initial consultation before the school year starts!

Do You Need Braces if You Have an Overbite?

By Orthodontics

Do You Need Braces if You Have an Overbite?

In his over 20 years as an orthodontist, Dr. Patel has seen his fair share of excessive overbite teeth. After all, excessive overbite, also called a “deep bite,” is one of the most common kinds of malocclusion, or misalignment of teeth. Thankfully, Dr. Patel and the team at The Brace Place can fix an overbite so you get the functional, confident smile you deserve.


If you’re concerned about an overbite in your child, we suggest bringing them in to see us for an initial visit by age seven. The American Association of Orthodontist (AAO) suggests this is a great time for a first orthodontic appointment… and we agree! Why? Because by age seven, a child has some of their adult teeth already and their jaw shape is pretty much set. A skilled orthodontist like Dr. Patel can spot potential issues — like an excessive overbite — that might need treatment. 


What is An Overbite?

Before we answer the question in the title of this post, “Do you need braces if you have an overbite?” let’s cover the basics. “What is an overbite? What does an overbite look like? Do I have an overbite?” you might be wondering. Well, an overbite is when your top row of teeth vertically overlaps your bottom teeth when your back teeth are closed. You could also think of it as your top row of teeth sticking out farther than your bottom teeth.


Now, we should mention that not all overbites are considered issues that need fixing. In fact, it’s normal to have a slight overbite. But when the amount of overbite is too large, it’s problematic and you might need orthodontic correction. 


What is considered an excessively large overbite? Of course, the best way to know for sure is to have an experienced orthodontic specialist like Dr. Patel take a look. But a few at-home indicators that you have an excessive overbite are:


If your bottom teeth bite into the roof your mouth – Called a deep bite or impinging bite, your top teeth might overlap your bottom ones entirely, causing your bottom teeth to hit the roof of your mouth when your jaw is closed.


You have the appearance of a receding chin or undefine lower jaw – An excessive overbite can affect your facial appearance, especially if your excessive overbite is because of your jaw or skeletal structure, like a small lower jaw.


Your teeth look like they’re not straight or aligned – When individual teeth (versus the entire jaw) aren’t in their proper position, what can result is a dental overbite. Shifting those misaligned teeth can correct your overbite, as well as other issues like crowding, gapping, or twisted teeth.


Illustrations of teeth with overbite and buck teeth

Overbite vs. Overjet

Understandably, an excessive overbite can be confused with overjet. After all, the overall look of these two issues is similar at first glance. And many patients with an overbite also have overjet teeth.


However, an overbite is the vertical overlap of your top teeth sitting outside your bottom teeth. While overjet is the horizontal distance between upper front teeth and lower teeth — how much only the top front teeth flare out from the teeth below them. That’s why overjet is also called “buck teeth.”



What Causes Overbite Teeth?

There are several causes of overbite teeth. These include:


Genetics: The most common cause of overbite is genetics. The size and shape of your jaw is usually inherited and can sometimes cause problems with the growth or development of your jaw or teeth. In this case, an overbite can happen because the lower jaw is too small. 


Misaligned Teeth: As we mentioned earlier, you can have a dental overbite when the issue stems from misaligned teeth instead of your jaw. An overbite can happen when teeth aren’t aligned or they’re crowding because your jaw is too small. Sometimes these teeth issues happen from growth issues like an early loss of baby teeth.


Missing Lower Teeth: When back lower teeth are missing because of injury or decay, this can cause the same problems as having a small lower jaw.


Grinding or Clenching Your Teeth: Bruxism, the technical name for a persistent habit of grinding or clenching teeth, can result in really strong biting muscles. This might sound harmless but can cause your bite to deepen.


Aging: It’s natural for a bite to deepen as you age. This can mean that even a mild overbite that hasn’t bothered you for years can worsen and begin to cause functional or aesthetic problems. And if you had orthodontic treatment in the past but didn’t wear your retainer, sometimes the excessive overbite you used to have can reappear when you’re older. 



What Happens if You Don’t Get Overbite Correction?

It’s pretty clear that if you have an excessive overbite and don’t fix it, you could run into some oral complications. And it’s not only the way your smile and overall facial appearance look but the functionality of your teeth, too. Your teeth, jaws, and temporomandibular joints (TMJ) can all be impacted.


Increased Risk of Tooth Decay and Gum Disease

An excessive overbite canincrase your risk of tooth decay, cavities, and gum disease. On the flip side, one of the greatest long-term benefits of a normal bite and straight teeth is that maintaining good oral health is much easier. Brushing and flossing are more effective, lessening your risk of tooth decay and gum disease. 


We should also mention that if your overbite causes your lower teeth to touch the gums behind the front teeth when you close your mouth, you can get gum recession, which can weaken teeth.


Excessive Wear on Your Tooth Enamel

Over time, an overbite can contribute to excessive wear on your tooth enamel, the thin yet protective coating on your teeth that helps protect against cavities. You might also experience uneven wear because of how your upper and lower teeth come together when you bite or chew. Uneven wear on your tooth enamel not only puts you at more risk of cavities but can change the appearance of your teeth


Breathing Issues from an Overbite

It might surprise you to learn that in some cases of severe overbite, your airway can be restricted, contributing to obstructive sleep apnea. And people with skeletal overbites are more likely to snore and mouth breath when they sleep.


Impaired Chewing and Bite Functioning

Even a moderate excessive overbite can impact how well you chew your food. For a start, think about foods like pizza, sandwiches, or apples that you bite and tear into with your front teeth. Top and bottom teeth that aren’t stacked on top of each other well make it harder to bite into certain foods. 


Speaking and Pronunciation Problems

Malloclusions of any kind can cause speech problems like lisping. Overbites in particular can interfere with pronouncing “s,” “z,” “sh,” and “zh,” or “d, “l,” and “t” correctly.


Jaw Pain and TMJ Disorder

Overbite teeth that aren’t corrected can also cause considerable facial pain or discomfort. A bite that isn’t aligned can put extra stress on the TMJ and chewing muscles that connect the lower jaw to the upper jaw on either side of your face. We’ve had many patients come to The Brace Place concerned about jaw pain, headaches, and even earaches, which come from misaligned bites or severe overbites. 


Decrease in Self-Esteem

Adding to the functional issues mentioned above, having an overbite can affect your smile and how your face looks. For many of our patients, facial disharmony can negatively affect their confidence. We’ve found that treating an overbite for cosmetic reasons is often just as rewarding for our patients as the functional benefits.



How To Fix an Overbite

All that said, let’s turn to how to fix an overbite and circle back to the question: Do you need braces to fix an overbite? It’s different for every patient, since the kind of overbite and severity are unique for every person. We also consider our patient’s age — kids with a deep bite can benefit from Phase 1 early interceptive orthodontics and Phase 2 orthodontics later on in their teen years. Adult patients can dive right into typical orthodontic treatment.


When you come to visit us at our Tulsa or Claremore, OK orthodontist office, Dr. Patel will provide a thorough examination and an accurate diagnosis of your malocclusion. He’ll also explain your best, personalized options for getting a smile you’ll love and that works for your lifestyle. 


So, do braces or Invisalign® fix an overbite? We can confidently say, yes, braces provide great results for an overbite! We might add orthodontic rubber bands, which provide the leverage needed to bring the upper and lower arches together, aligning your overbite. At The Brace Place, we offer modern metal braces and ceramic braces that will efficiently transform your smile. 


If you’re not keen on braces but are interested in Invisalign, you’ll be pleased to know that these clear aligners can fix an overbite in Dr. Patel’s experienced hands.


In rare cases where braces or Invisalign aren’t a match for the severity of your overbite, we might suggest overbite surgery. Or we might conclude that fixing your overbite requires a combination of braces or Invisalign and surgery.


Whatever your specific overbite needs, we’re tech-savvy at The Brace Place, using the latest orthodontic technology to address our patients’ needs successfully. We also want our patients to experience efficient and comfortable treatment. 



Overbite Correction With The Brace Place

Now that you’ve learned all about overbites and can answer, “What is an overbite?” Dr. Patel is ready to help. At The Brace Place, we can address your overbite and help you achieve a beautiful smile you’re proud of. 

Contact us today and get started on a new smile with your friendly, expert orthodontic team in Tulsa and Claremore, OK.

Invisalign and Braces for Seniors

Invisalign and Braces for Seniors: Considerations, Treatment Options and Benefits

By Orthodontics

When you think of straightening teeth, the first thing that might come to mind is generations of braces-wearing teenagers. But, in fact, orthodontic treatment like braces or Invisalign® isn’t just for young people. Today, adults, and even senior adults, are getting healthy smiles with adult orthodontics.


Dr. Patel has had many adult patients come in and ask, “Am I too old for braces?” The simple answer is, no, you’re never too old for orthodontic care — our oldest patient at The Brace Place was 78-years-old! Adult braces and Invisalign for adults not only address aesthetic concerns but can also fix and prevent oral health problems that can arise with age. 


So what kinds of orthodontic concerns might indicate you’re a candidate for adult orthodontics? And what are the benefits of getting Invisalign or braces for seniors? Let’s answer these questions and talk about what you need to know.


In this post about adult orthodontics, we’ll cover:


  • Why get adult orthodontics for seniors?
  • What are my adult orthodontics treatment options?
  • What is Invisalign like for senior citizens?
  • Invisalign pros and cons for older adults?
  • What about braces for senior citizens?


Why get adult orthodontics for seniors?

Let’s start with why orthodontics for seniors is a good idea. Like we mentioned earlier, orthodontics for seniors can help with getting the smile you’ve always wanted or address dental health issues that have cropped up over time. Adult orthodontics can also prevent new orthodontic issues from happening. You might have even had braces in your youth, but your teeth have relapsed over time and you’re now looking to refresh them.


We also want to say that the senior years can be the perfect time to get a healthy smile with orthodontics. It’s a chapter when you might finally have the means and time to focus on yourself and get the smile you deserve. The retirement years are also longer and more active these days, with many older adults taking up new hobbies, new adventures, and choosing healthy lifestyles. Adult braces or Invisalign can be a welcome aesthetic enhancement to this vibrant chapter of life, and help with feeling more youthful, confident, and attractive.


Adult orthodontics can also improve your quality of life. Some seniors have a hard time eating, drinking or even speaking like they used to because of problematic teeth. And if you’re suffering with jaw pain, migraines, or TMJ associated with orthodontic issues, you can return to a pain-free life with Invisalign or braces treatment.


Correcting misaligned teeth or a bad bite benefits your oral and physical health too. Straight teeth are easier to brush and floss, meaning you’re less prone to tooth decay, cavities, and gum disease. And your physical health? Some studies have linked poor oral health with serious conditions like heart disease and diabetes.


Here are the benefits of orthodontics for seniors and why having straight teeth matters:


Improving efficiency – If you’ve been experiencing difficulty with chewing in your later years, this might be because your teeth don’t fit together in a proper bite. An open bite or overjet can make it hard to chew food, causing a lot of frustration. Aligning your bite can stack your teeth into alignment and help you eat again with ease.


Better oral hygiene – Simply put, crowded, crooked teeth are harder to keep clean; you have to brush and floss more diligently to clean properly around and in between your teeth. And lackluster oral hygiene makes you more prone to tooth decay, cavities, gum disease, and even tooth loss.


Avoiding tooth wear and damage – As we age, our bites tend to deepen. And a seriously deep bite can be hard on teeth, contributing to tooth wear. Worn down enamel doesn’t grow back, so you might need procedures like veneers or crowns to lengthen your teeth and bring back normal functioning.


Preventing future issues – Maybe you’ve had some mild teeth issues throughout your adult years but they haven’t intruded on your oral functioning or your everyday life. But teeth do continue shifting as we age, and your mild orthodontic problems can become more complex in your senior years. Adult orthodontics can prevent issues from getting worse. 


What are my adult orthodontics treatment options?


Now that you know how adult orthodontics can benefit you in your senior years, we can dive into treatment options. At The Brace Place, we offer Invisalign and braces for our senior patients, just like we do for all our patients. And you might be pleased to hear that most patients who walk in the door are candidates for Invisalign or braces — even complex cases can be treated with orthodontics because of Dr. Patel’s 20+ years of orthodontic expertise. 

Now, you might be concerned that older teeth are fully set in their positions and won’t respond well to orthodontics. We’re happy to tell you that isn’t true! With the right pressure and treatment plan, teeth can move at any age if your teeth and gums are healthy. And if they’re not? Maybe you have gum disease or tooth decay. Rest assured, Dr. Patel can work with your dentist and other specialists to get you to a place where treatment is possible.


What is Invisalign like for senior citizens?


Let’s talk about Invisalign treatment. Invisalign is a series of clear, removable, BPA-free plastic trays that you fit over your teeth. The trays are custom-designed by Dr. Patel using state-of-the-art, digital technology. You can even get a preview of what your tooth movements will look like from start to finish before your treatment begins!

Invisalign moves teeth incrementally into their optimal positions — which means less discomfort than braces. A slow and steady push force moves your teeth to align with each set of clear aligners before you move on to the next set. Typical treatment plans include 18-30 sets of aligners and lasts about 1-2 years, though it’s worth mentioning that treatment sometimes takes longer for seniors or if you don’t follow your plan to a “T”. You wear your Invisalign aligners for 22 hours a day, only taking them out when you eat, drink anything other than water, and when you clean your teeth. 

We’ve found that many of our adult patients choose Invisalign over braces because clear aligners are more discreet and work well for busy lifestyles. With Invisalign, you don’t look like you’re doing orthodontic treatment, and you don’t have to change your eating and drinking habits to avoid damaging your appliance, like you do with braces. 

Understandably, Invisalign for seniors can seem a bit more complicated than Invisalign for younger patients, since dental work like crowns or bridges is more common in older adults. So can you get Invisalign with crowns or other dental work? The good news is that, yes, you can get Invisalign with crowns, implants or other types of cosmetic or restorative dental work. You can even get Invisalign if you’re missing some teeth or have large gaps. 

Depending on the complexity of your case, Dr. Patel might recommend Invisalign attachments or rubber bands in your treatment. These additions help fix more serious orthodontic issues like twisted or leaning teeth, or jaw alignment that’s impacting chew and bite functioning.


Invisalign Pros and Cons for Seniors?

A list of pros and cons always helps weigh out a life-changing decision like Invisalign. Here are some points to consider about Invisalign for seniors:


Pros of Invisalign for older adults:

  • You get a beautiful smile – Your smile journey results in a smile you can be proud of.
  • Straight teeth make you look younger – straight teeth create a wider smile, making the skin around your. mouth look tighter and more lifted. Straight teeth also give the impression of good health and vitality.
  • Straight teeth equals healthy teeth – You’re less prone to plaque building up and leading to tooth decay or gum disease — straight, well-spaced teeth are easier to keep clean.
  • Clear aligner treatment is discreet Invisalign is nearly invisible so it’s not obvious you’re getting your teeth straightened like it is with braces.
  • Appointments are short – You see your orthodontist for a brief check-in every 6-8 weeks, and there’s no adjustments or tightening needed.
  • Eat and drink as usual – You can continue enjoying the foods and drinks you love and not worry about damaging your appliance.
  • Treatment is comfortable – Aligners are trimmed to the gums for a precise fit and there are no wires or brackets to irritate your mouth.
  • Oral hygiene is easy – Just take out your aligners, then brush and floss as usual. Cleaning your aligners is a quick task of brushing them with warm water and a soft toothbrush, then rinsing them before putting them back in.


Cons of Invisalign for older adults:

  • Success and treatment length is based on compliance –  If you don’t stick to your Invisalign treatment plan, your teeth can take longer to shift.
  • Clear aligners can be misplaced – If you lose a set, waiting for a replacement might prolong your treatment time.
  • Cost might be out-of-pocket – By retirement, you might not have a dental plan that covers Invisalign. Fortunately, we have flexible payment options at The Brace Place, like our in-house, interest-free monthly payment plans.


What about braces for senior citizens?

The alternative to Invisalign is braces. You might be interested to know that for older adults and seniors, braces have risen in popularity over the last 10 years. And if you’re asking, “Am I too old for braces?” look to older celebrities like Faye Dunaway and Danny Glover who have flashed their braces proudly in recent years. Teeth braces for senior citizens can combat the orthodontic issues that naturally happen as we age and correct or prevent their effects. 


Choosing braces as a senior citizen is beneficial for issues like:


  • Shifting teeth
  • Crooked teeth and misaligned bites
  • Wear and tear on tooth enamel
  • Bone loss in the jaw
  • Tooth decay
  • Headaches, TMJ and jaw pain


Are you wondering about how braces will look? You’ll be happy to know that braces aren’t the clunky metal appliances that you recall from generations past. At our Tulsa and Claremore, OK offices, we offer two types of modern braces: the latest metal braces that have smaller brackets and thinner wires, and clear ceramic braces with white composite brackets that blend in with your smile. Ceramic braces are especially popular with our adult patients because they’re less noticeable than metal braces.


Healthy Smiles with Adult Orthodontics

Invisalign and braces for seniors at The Brace Place

Ready to ask us about Invisalign or braces for your senior years? You deserve a functional, confident smile in your golden years! As an award-winning orthodontic specialist and Silver Invisalign provider, Dr. Patel has the expertise to help you get the smile you’ve always wanted.


Contact our Tulsa or Claremore office today for a free initial consultation.

How to Fix a Gummy Smile

How to Fix a Gummy Smile

By Orthodontics

A gummy smile. It’s safe to say that we can recognize one when we see it — it’s when a narrow band of the upper gums is visible when a person smiles. For some, this proportion of teeth to gums isn’t an issue. For others, a gummy smile isn’t appealing, and can even make you feel self-conscious. If you think you have too much of your gums showing and want to know how to fix a gummy smile, a consultation with Dr. Anand Patel at The Brace Place is a great place to start.


But what is a gummy smile exactly and what causes it? And how do you fix a gummy smile? Here, we’ll cover all you need to know about gummy smiles.



What is a Gummy Smile?


Dr. Patel has seen a fair number of gummy smiles in his two decades as an orthodontist. Also called “excessive gingival display,” experts calculate that about 14% of women and 7% of men have gummy smiles, although this is based on treated cases. The actual number of people with gummy smiles is likely higher.


So what is considered a gummy smile? First, let’s clarify that aesthetically, a gummy smile is a matter of perception and personal taste. Some people find it perfectly normal to have gums show in a smile, while others feel their gummy smile needs improvement.


But technically speaking, a smile that shows four millimeters or more of gums above the upper teeth is considered a gummy smile. In a study that included dentists, plastic surgeons, dermatologists, and the general public, consensus was that two millimeters was a normal smile. Participants started noticing the gums at three millimeters, and by four millimeters, they felt too much gum was showing. 



What Causes a Gummy Smile?


There are several causes for a gummy smile. And even though it’s called a “gummy smile,” it’s not just about the gums. In fact, a gummy smile is a result of how the gums, teeth, lips and jaw are working together.


Think of a gummy smile as a combination of some or all the following:

  • The size and shape of your teeth
  • Excessive gum tissue 
  • Excessive wear on your teeth
  • The length and shape of your upper lip
  • How the upper lip moves when you smile
  • The vertical position of your upper jaw and teeth relative to your upper face


Teeth and Gums


The size and shape of your teeth – Genetics dictates how your adult teeth will erupt and how they’ll look. Ideally, crown length — the visible part of the tooth — is about 10 millimeters, and the width of teeth about 75-85% of their crown length. However, sometimes you inherit smaller-than-normal teeth, which causes more exposed gums when smiling.


Excessive gum tissue – Sometimes excess gum tissue covers the tops of your teeth, leading to a high gums-to-teeth ratio and a gummy smile.


Excessive wear on your teeth – A lifetime of chewing can cause your teeth to wear down, which is normal. But excessive wear can make them incrementally shorter. This triggers teeth to erupt very slowly towards the opposing teeth and is your body’s way of trying to maintain a functional bite with shorter teeth. As worn teeth move, so do the gums they’re attached to, elongating your gums and making them more visible when you smile.


The Lips


The length and shape of your upper lip and how the upper lip moves – If you have a thin upper lip, more of your upper gums might show when you smile. Or you might experience exposed gums when smiling if you have a hypermobile lip — one that moves up more than 6-8 millimeters when you smile.


The Jaw


The vertical position of your upper jaw and teeth – Are your teeth, lips, and gums all proportionate but you still have a gummy smile? If so, your gummy smile might be because of a longer upper jaw.


Called “maxillary excess”, this is an overgrowth of the upper jaw which makes the gums bulge out or sit lower from the upper face. As a result, it’s difficult for the upper lip to stretch in a smile without lifting up and showing your gums.



How to Fix a Gummy Smile


Now that we know what causes a gummy smile, we can talk about how to correct it! Once an orthodontist like Dr. Patel has examined your teeth, gums, and lips, your facial structure and jaw, they can suggest treatments for how to fix a gummy smile that will work best for you.



Gummy smile surgery


Gummy smile surgery ranges from correcting upper lip movement on the minor end, to jaw surgery for more complicated cases. If your gummy smile is due to lip shape or movement, a doctor might suggest severing the muscles that elevate the upper lip when you smile. Then your upper lip won’t rise up as high and expose your gums.


If your gummy smile is due to maxillary excess, jaw surgery might be an option. This type of gummy smile surgery involves repositioning the upper jaw upward and securing it in its new spot with plates and screws. Orthognathic surgery, as it’s called, is typically a lengthy process that can take up to two years and includes surgery as well as orthodontic treatment like braces or Invisalign®.


Gummy smile BOTOX®


You might be surprised to know that a gummy smile can be treated with BOTOX. Treating a gummy smile with BOTOX means paralyzing the muscles of your upper lip that activate a smile with BOTOX injections. Then your upper lip doesn’t contract and move up as much when you smile. Gummy smile BOTOX treatment typically lasts 3-4 months but lasts a bit longer with every treatment.


Reshaping your gums with laser treatment


When a gummy smile is due to small, short teeth or excessive gums, Dr. Patel might suggest laser treatment. Excess gum tissue is removed with a laser, showing more of your teeth and reducing the gums.


Crowns and veneers


Another solution for a gummy smile is veneers or crowns that change your teeth’s visible appearance. Veneers and crowns placed over your teeth make them look longer and improve your tooth-to-gum ratio.



Fix A Gummy Smile with The Brace Place


Now that you know all about gummy smiles, let the experienced team at The Brace Place help you take first steps towards a smile you’ll love. 

Book a free consultation at our Claremore or Tulsa office, or set up a virtual appointment today. Dr. Patel is here to help you improve your gummy smile!

should you replace your retainer

How Often Should You Replace Your Retainer?

By Orthodontics

How Often Should You Replace Your Retainer?


It’s exciting when the braces come off or you throw your last set of clear aligners in the trash. You’ve successfully finished your orthodontic treatment and now have the straight and healthy smile you deserve! Now it’s time to make sure those newly-aligned teeth stay that way for life. How? With a dental retainer. Yes, using a retainer after braces or clear aligner treatment like Invisalign® is a typical for maintaining a new smile.


Many of our patients at The Brace Place have lots of questions when it comes to this next step in their orthodontic journey. So in this post, we’re sharing all you need to know about wearing a retainer, including the answers to one of the biggest questions we get: How often should you replace your retainer?


But before we get to that one, let’s cover the basics of retainer-wearing to make sure you’re starting off on the right foot. We’ll first answer:


  • What’s a retainer?
  • How long do you wear retainers?
  • How often should you replace a retainer?



What’s a retainer?


Simply put, a dental retainer/orthodontic retainer is an orthodontic appliance used after braces or clear aligner treatment to help maintain the new alignment of your teeth. After all, you want your new smile to last a lifetime, right? In the immediate months after you’ve finished with orthodontic treatment, a teeth retainer after braces or Invisalign® helps your teeth settle securely in their new positions after months of shifting and working hard. In the long term, wearing a retainer prevents your teeth from moving back, which happens naturally as your body grows and changes. Most orthodontists —Dr. Patel, included — offer three retainer options for using after orthodontic treatment. The one you use will depend on your orthodontic history and your orthodontist’s examination of your teeth.


Essix retainer: this is a retainer that many people are familiar with. It’s entirely plastic, covers your entire dental arch, and is removable.


Hawley retainer: this retainer is made up of an acrylic part that sits up against your palette, and a wire that sits against your teeth to hold them in position. A Hawley retainer is removable.


Permanent retainer: Attached to the lingual (tongue) side of your teeth, a permanent retainer is just that — permanent. A thin wire is bonded to the back of your teeth to maintain their alignment. Because it’s on the back side of your teeth, it’s virtually invisible. But even though it’s hard to see, you do have to pay special attention to brushing and flossing the backs of your teeth since food debris and plaque can collect around the wire.


Teeth retainers are also sometimes used on their own because they can help correct many mouth issues. In other words, they’re not only used for smile retention after braces or Invisalign®. Retainers can also be used for:


Fixing small gaps in teeth: Sometimes orthodontists recommend them for addressing small gaps in teeth if they can do the job instead of braces or clear aligners. In this case, a retainer will be used to both close small gaps and maintain your teeth’s new spacing once the gaps are closed.


Correcting mouth issues: Certain retainers are used to help correct issues that might otherwise lead to jaw or teeth misalignment. For example, if your child has tongue thrust, a special retainer called a crib or tongue cage retainer can be used to train the tongue to rest against the palate, instead of pushing against the front teeth. These retainers can also prevent the tongue from going forward between the front teeth when speaking because they have small metal bars that hang down from the top. Correcting tongue thrust can help prevent the need for braces or Invisalign later on. Of course, it goes without saying that the amount of time a child needs to wear a retainer for an issue like tongue thrust depends on the individual case.


Alleviating TMJ: Another use for a retainer is to help alleviate pain in the jaw from TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder). TMJ pain is typically caused by a misaligned bite and/or teeth grinding (also called “bruxism”). Teeth grinding puts stress on the temporomandibular joints — the joints that connect your lower jaw to your skull. This stress can affect the joints themselves and the surrounding muscles and ligaments, causing jaw pain or headaches. A retainer prevents your top and bottom teeth from touching so that you can’t grind your teeth.



How long do you wear retainers?


The length of time you wear your retainer will be prescribed by your orthodontist, but most often, it’s forever. At The Brace Place, Dr. Anand Patel will examine your teeth after you’ve finished wearing your braces or Invisalign® and determine what your dental retainer schedule will look like. Initially, many patients have to wear their retainer 24 hours a day — for about 4-6 months. They can usually transition to only wearing their retainer at night once Dr. Patel has given the thumbs up. On the other hand, other patients are cleared for night-time retainer wear only right from the start. You’ll see that just like braces or Invisalign®, retainer schedules are different for everyone. As for the long haul, adults typically have to wear their retainers indefinitely, as we mentioned, while teens might be able to stop wearing their retainers after about 10 years.


How often should you replace a retainer?


Knowing you have to wear a dental retainer for the rest of your life, the next question you might have is, “How often should you replace a retainer?” Typically, you’ll have several retainers over your lifetime, and how often you replace them depends largely on two things: the kind of retainer you have, and your regimen around caring for your retainer. Of the removable retainers, Hawley retainers typically last longer than Essix retainers. And permanent retainers last longer than the removable ones since they’re attached to your teeth. 


In terms of caring for retainers, we recommend being gentle so you don’t have to replace them prematurely. Here are some helpful retainer instructions for making sure your retainer lasts:


  1. Take it out when eating or drinking. It’s best to take out your retainer when eating, drinking, and brushing your teeth. Eating with your retainer can put a lot of pressure on the wire of a Hawley retainer, bending or damaging it. And drinking anything other than water with a retainer in — like soda, sports drinks, and flavored water — can discolor your retainer and break down the plastic over time.


  1. Use your fingers to put it back in. Whether you have an Essix or  Hawley retainer, always put your retainer back in your mouth by pushing it onto your teeth with your fingers — don’t bite it into place. A habit of biting down on it can eventually crack or break the plastic. 


  1. Store it to protect it. Make sure to store your retainer in its case when you’re not wearing it so it doesn’t get knocked onto the floor, stepped on, chewed on by pets, lost, or bent out of shape.


  • Make sure it fits! A retainer that doesn’t fit properly or feels uncomfortable means it doesn’t maintain the alignment of your teeth like it should; this can affect how long your retainer lasts. A board-certified orthodontist like Dr. Patel will ensure that your retainer fits your teeth properly from the start.
  • Don’t fiddle around with it in your mouth. Some patients click their retainer on and off their teeth. This can loosen the retainer and reduce its effectiveness.


  1. Don’t let it heat up. Leaving your retainer in a hot car or drinking hot drinks while you’re wearing it can warp the plastic.


  • Have a backup retainer. Even a few weeks without a retainer can cause your teeth to start shifting back. So having an extra orthodontic retainer means that if your main one gets damaged, you don’t have an interruption in keeping your teeth straight.


So when do I need a new retainer if I’m careful and it doesn’t get damaged? In his 20 years of orthodontics, Dr. Patel has seen that the natural lifespan of a removable retainer is about 5-10 years before it shows signs of needing replacement. Permanent retainers can last decades if cared for properly. However, if your retainer starts to feel like it doesn’t fit snug against your teeth or it’s warped, it’s time to visit your Tulsa and Claremore orthodontist to get your retainer adjusted (if it’s a Hawley retainer) or replaced.



How to clean retainers


Now we can’t end this post about how often you should replace your retainer without including some tips on how to clean them. It goes without saying that a clean retainer is much more pleasant to wear than a smelly, dirty one. Yes, a retainer can start to smell if it’s not cleaned well since it can harbor the same bacteria that collects on your teeth! Here are our suggestions for how to clean your removable retainers on a daily and weekly schedule:

Daily: Brush your removable retainer gently with a soft-bristled toothbrush and a non-abrasive, non-whitening toothpaste whenever you’re also brushing and flossing your teeth. So at least twice a day. This helps get rid of sticky plaque and food debris. Rinse it well with water before putting it back in your mouth or storing it. 


Once a week: Soak your retainer in distilled water to keep it fresh. Add some baking soda for extra cleaning power! Alternatively, soaking your retainer in some white vinegar, non-whitening mouthwash, or denture cleaner is effective. However, if used too often, denture cleaner can turn your retainer yellow. There are also some specific retainer cleaning solutions out there, too. 


Cleaning permanent retainers:

If you have a permanent retainer, approach your dental hygiene like you’re wearing braces. Be sure to brush and floss the backs of your teeth thoroughly to get any food debris or plaque that’s stuck around the wire, and floss diligently between your teeth and the wire. It may take a few tries and a few special flossing tools to figure out how to floss well, but once you’ve mastered it, it becomes second nature.



Your retainer expert in Tulsa and Claremore, OK


Whether you’re getting a retainer for the first time or looking to replace your retainer, The Brace Place is your go-to orthodontist for expert retainer service. Dr. Anand Patel and his friendly team will help you maintain your confident smile and are always ready to answer any of your retainer questions. Contact us today for a free in-person or virtual consultation!